Midnight last night, the next blockbuster movie series opened in theaters across the country.
The Hunger Games is a futuristic trilogy that depicts a desolate, yet believable, post-apocalyptic world in what was once North America. After a rebellion from the outlying districts, the central government of Panem works hard to keep the losing side under their thumb through acts of control and cruelty.
Most horrifying is an annual reality show featuring young people chosen from the land’s various outlying districts. Every year on Reaping Day, a boy and a girl (ages 12 to 18) from each of the 12 districts are chosen by lottery to fight to the death in a televised gladiator event. The participants are called “tributes.” Residents of the Capitol, who prevailed in the rebellion aren’t required to participate in them.
Most of the districts despise the Games because they serve as a constant reminder of their defeat in the rebellion 70 years before, and of course, it costs them two of their beloved children every year. Viewing the Hunger Games is mandatory.
The protagonist in the story is a wily 16 year old girl named Katniss Everdeen (played by Jennifer Lawrence) who volunteers to take her younger sister’s place in the games.
Our family missed the Harry Potter and Twilight fads. However, this book series has mesmerized us. Despite not being much of a fiction reader, I found the story extremely compelling. I haven’t seen the movie (we’re going tonight!) although my niece attended last night’s midnight premier and loved it.
What The Hunger Games Tells Us About Us
The book series portrays the Capitol as an unmistakable cross between the ancient Roman empire and a futuristic United States.
Residents of the Capitol wear outrageous clothing and extravagant make-up. They gorge themselves at banquets and then purge so they can gorge themselves again. Their bloodlust is seemingly never satisfied, which is why they absolutely adore the Hunger Games.
Sounds a little like us.
I don’t know a great deal about Suzanne Collins, the author, although my compadre Eugene Scott reported in an earlier blog post that the idea for the story is the result of Collins channel surfing between a reality show and war footage late one night. She confesses, “I was really tired, and the lines between these stories started to blur in a very unsettling way.”
Some critics complain that the story lacks any religious influence or redeeming value. I disagree.
My niece made an interesting comment about her experience in the movie theater last night:
The worst part? When the audience cheered the death of a tribute…I wanted to yell at them all, to say that they were no better than the Capital[sic].
Perhaps Collins is describing what we’re becoming: a godless, bloodthirsty, reality-TV driven, consumeristic society. What’s the fastest growing sport in America? Mixed Martial Arts fighting. Viewers can’t can’t get enough of the bloody brawls. Reality TV seems to be driving the media. And all the while, we become increasingly narcissistic.
Ironically, the Lenten theme at our church is entitled “Hungry?” All of us are hungry. To satisfy it, we often reach for anything sensational, titillating, and adrenaline-producing. Yet we can never get enough. Ultimately, the logical end of our futile pursuits brings us to the destruction of our souls.
Jesus, on the other, offers something that does satisfy. Himself.
Then Jesus declared, “I am the bread of life. Whoever comes to me will never go hungry, and whoever believes in me will never be thirsty.” John 6:35
Michael co-pastors The Neighborhood Church in Littleton, Colorado with Eugene Scott. If you don’t have plans for Palm Sunday (April 1) or Easter (April 8), and you live in the Denver area, please join us at The Neighborhood Church.